August 15: The government has formed an expert group to study the prospect of an international airport in Nijgadh, Bara after the full text of Supreme Court verdict on the disputed issue ruled that an international airport can be built in the district.
An expert group of 10 people has been formed under the coordination of former Director General of the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Birendra Deuja. The expert panel has been mandated to submit a report within one month.
On 15 June, after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government that an airport can be built in Nijgadh on certain conditions. A meeting of the Council of Ministers then decided to form the group for further study.
Accordingly, the group has been formed which includes air infrastructure experts, anthropologists, as well as experts on wildlife, urban as well as air route, said Jagannath Niraula, spokesperson of Nepal Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
He said that the group has been formed for the construction of the airport in accordance with Supreme Court verdict following the decision of the Council of Ministers a few days ago.
The report will be prepared within a month and then the airport construction process will start. The Supreme Court had issued a mandamus order on May 26 telling the government not to build an airport in Nijgadh almost three decades after the government had completed the study and initiated the process of acquiring land for the construction of the airport.
In the midst of confusion about whether or not to build an airport in Nijgadh, the government mentioned in the budget announcement for the current fiscal year that an airport would be built in Nijgadh. After some time, the full text of the Supreme Court's decision was made public which was also supportive of the idea of building an airport in Nijgadh using minimum forest area.
A month and a half after the full text of the Supreme Court was released, the government formed an expert group.
Earlier, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court saying that the construction of the airport would cause great damage to the environment. However, the Supreme Court issued a full text stating that an airport can be built at the same location with minimal environmental damage.
In the full text of the Supreme Court states that the government can form a group of neutral, impartial and skilled experts with expertise in the fields of environment, forest, wildlife, air service management, economists, sociologists, and administrators to find a way to reduce the environmental damage in all possible ways regarding the feasibility study of the economic and technical aspects of conducting flights.
Accordingly, Deuja, who is also an air infrastructure expert, is the coordinator of the expert group formed by the ministry. Economist Rameshwar Khanal, infrastructure expert Prof Dr Suryaraj Acharya, urban developer Prof Dr Sangeeta Singh, wildlife expert Prem Bahadur Budha are members of the group. Similarly, members of the expert group also include forestry expert Suresh Kumar Ghimire, anthropologist/sociologist Dr. Lakshmi Singh, senior pilot Captain Krishna Bikram Paudel Kshatri, senior lawyer Dr. Chandrakant Gyawali and air route expert Mahesh Kumar Basnet.
It has been mentioned in the full text that it is necessary to make sure that an international airport should be built by considering the recommendations made in a report by an expert group.
"It is believed that by fulfilling these conditions, there will be only minimal environmental damage and the construction of an airport at a location that is considered suitable from a technical point of view can be undertaken," the full text of Supreme Court verdict reads.
Almost 3 decades of time and more than Rs 1 billion have been spent on this project, including studies.
In point 57 of the policy and programmes for the current fiscal year, it is mentioned that the investment and construction of Nijgadh International Airport will be finalized so that the construction work will start from the year 2080/81.